Mar 31 2012

March 31 ride around Lake Sammamish…in the rain

Wet.  Cold.  Typical March riding conditions for Seattle.  Who could ask for more?  Apparently, most people do.

Fridays nights are when I plan to get ready for my Saturday morning ride.  Work is stressful, not because it’s hard, but because of the volume of projects and deadlines.  Each week run by in a blur, and when Friday comes around, it is simultaneously surprising that it has arrived so fast, and welcome, because it means that I get to think about things that I want to think about for a couple of days.  And what I’m thinking about on Friday nights is what’s going on for the Saturday morning ride.  As it turns out, on this Friday, there was no plan for the Saturday ride.  So what to do?  I make one.

The first thing I did was check the weather for rain.  Yep, 100% chance of rain for Saturday.  Then I check the temperature.  Low to mid 40s.  In other words, wet and cold.  Then, it’s the email blast to the CTTL group.  Let’s go riding!  And since I’m tired, I go to bed early, not knowing how many responses I’m going to see.

Saturday morning.  The kids are especially slow.  Need to get them dressed.  Need to feed them.  Need to get them ready for the babysitter, because I’m going riding.  Let’s check email to see how many are joining.  How many of the determined CTTL members, the motley group of committed riders, the biking enthusiasts who are honing their leg, hearts, and lungs which will power them and their bikes a hundred miles a day for consecutive days, up 1,000 foot ascents, and across international borders.  How many?  Well, it looks like it’s William, and he’s proposing a later start time. At the end of the day, 1 is better than none.  I’m glad to have someone join me.

I’m glad because the truth is, riding in the cold is miserable.  Your ears freeze and hurt.  Your eyes water.  Your toes go numb.  Your fingers go numb, making it hard to shift or brake.  Your whole body shivers, and after riding, it takes so long for your body to warm back up.

Then there is the rain.  Yes you wear the pants and jacket, but they do only so much.  Water still drips down off your helmet onto your head, then pours down your face, into your eyes.  What doesn’t go into your eyes, continues on down past your chin, down your neck, past your jacket collar, and into your shirt.  Your glasses are soaked and fog up.  Your bike shorts underneath your pants eventually get soaking wet, and “things” (which I won’t describe here) start to chafe.  Even if you’re wearing booties, water still gets in over the tops of the collars, and your feet get wet and the toes begin to prune.

But  the worst part is the road spray.  All the water that your tires carry and then fling off into the air does 2 things.  The first thing it does is that it lands on something.  And if you are behind someone, that something is usually your face.  The second thing that the spray does is carry road grime.  I’m talking about all those pieces of dirt, sand, oil, debris, all that gunk that cars expel, that dump trucks spill, that garbage trucks leak, that Honey Bucket trucks ooze, all that stuff that is on the road.  And when it rains, it’s everywhere, and in the water that our tires carry and fling into the air.  And if you’re riding behind someone, that spray is usually hitting you in the face, or on your jacket, or your water bottle.  By the way, this is why riders want fenders, because it keeps the spray to a minimum.  But don’t be fooled.  Even if your fenders are keeping the spray down, there is spray-ricochet coming off your fenders.  This is the spray from your tire hitting your fenders, and ricocheting off back onto your tire, creating a turbulent mist, which still carries all that road grime and still makes it onto your booties, your bike, and your bottles.  And even if the fenders do keep things clean, there is always the passing cars, who drive through the deep puddles, and send a tsunami of road water over your way.  All this, in my opinion, is the reason why people do not like riding in the rain.

So it was no surprise that no one wanted to ride.  In fact, the real question is, what is the matter with William and Eddie, why did they choose to ride?  Are they mentally ill?  Are they idiots?  We could debate this until the cows come home, but for some reason they consciously, purposefully chose to ride in the rain.  And to emphasize the oddity of this situation, they both knew that neither one had adequate rear fenders.  Yes, while the rest of the CTTL crew were either sleeping comfortably in their warm and dry beds, in their flannel footy-pajamas, under the cover of 800-fill Duxiana down comforters, or reminiscing about the stack of buttermilk pancakes, eggs over easy, english muffins, sausage links, coffee, and glass fresh-squeezed orange juice that they just consumed, William and Eddie are spraying each other with road grime, smiling, laughing, taking turns.

I was glad William elected to join.  Because it is cold, and wet.  Because I really need the saddle time.  Because if he didn’t, the chances of me not riding are huge.  I needed someone there to keep me honest, and make me follow through on the plan to ride.

Now if anyone is still reading at this point, you’re probably wondering about the ride itself.  For me, the ride was about what I described above.  But, as noted earlier, and by definition–since I rode in the rain today–I’m atypical, so what I find worth sharing may not be what others want.  So here it goes.

William and I started at 8:37-ish sharp, at Sunset Elementary.  After the customary salutations, and small talk about the weather, and ceremonial checking email one more time to see if anyone else is joining (we both knew no one else was going to join) we started off, William on his Litespeed Tuscany, the bike I almost bought before I bought my Pinarello, and me on my Trek Portland, which, by the way, should be spelled PorKland since it weighs 30+ pounds.  The pace was brisk, 20-ish mph on W Lk Sammamish towards Issaquah.  We took turns spraying each other in the face with grime leading until we approached Costco, where we turned north towards E Lk Sammamish Parkway, but not before taking a quick pit stop at the Soccer fields to visit the Honey Buckets there (as if we aren’t going to get enough Honey Bucket action through the road spray).  From there, we quickly make our way to the Parkway, cruising at ~18 mph.  For those familiar with the route, you know that this one rolls up and down, until you get to Marymoor park.

Typically, a CTTL group ride will take a break at Marymoor.  But with so much road spray to enjoy, and so little time, William and I saw now point in stopping, and continued on through.  We rolled onto W Lk Sammamish and then cut off onto Bel-Red road, for a long, sustained, gradual climb.  On the one hand, while I’m huffing, puffing, and spamsing my way up this hill, there is also a brief respite from the spray, since (a) William pulls ahead of me since I am in lousy shape, and (b) I’m going so slow that my tires aren’t really able to fling water very far.  Soon enough, we reach the top at NE 30th, cut south through the neighborhoods on 164th, down SE 26th to W Lk Sammamish, and back to Sunset Elementary, where we congratulate each other for a good ride and comment on how we both needed and enjoyed it, both of which were true for me.

But now, the final dilemma.  I’m covered in road grime.  My pants, jacket, booties, gloves, helmet.  Everything.  I am not just climbing back into my car with all this on.  I don’t know what other people do in these situations, but what I do is I proceed to strip down.  In the parking lot.  In the rain.  I keep a spare pair of sweat pants, shirt, and towel in my duffelbag, just for these occasions.  All my grimy stuff is carefully folded and placed on my rubber floormat, so I can rise them off when I get home.  I use the towel to wipe off my face, hands, neck, etc as much as I can so that I avoid fouling the interior of my car.  My bike, I rinse off the drivetrain with my remaining water, but that too will get hosed off when I get home, along with everything else.

Riding in the rain.  It takes commitment and determination, for it is definitely not what a reasonable person would do.


Garmin Stats



  1. Janine

    You guys are brave, I commend you for your dedication! Nice write up Eddie, yes, I stayed in my warm cozy house all morning!

  2. blueneck

    ‘Sorry I could not join you! I was not in bed with nice flannelwear. No – I decided I needed to go to work, grab some checks to drop off at the bank, and then ride home. Simple enough. Not in order, I put on the rain pants, goretex socks, shoe covers, jacket, jersey jacket, shorts, long pants, and to make sure my hands didn’t get cold and wet, I put on some nitrile gloves underneath my normal winter gloves. The nitrile’s kept my hands away from the cold-wet. I highly recommend it to inclement weather riders.
    I then headed out at around 9:30 or so. It was raining incessantly and a little cold. My ride to Sunset was relatively uneventful except somebody in a Mercedes decided to go the wrong way into Sunset Elementary nearly causing an accident and me almost rear-ending the Mercedes. I then headed up the ever-mossy switch back behind Sunset Elem. over to Eastgate and down to Richards Road. I made my way across MI and across the floating bridge and up to Harborview. Phase 1 was done. I then made my way over to Fairview Ave. going through downtown Seattle. It happens to be Comicon weekend and the traffic is a mess. I mentally thumb my nose at the clogged traffic.
    I made it to the bank and then as I headed back I heard this loud quacking noise. I saw a guy approaching me and thought it was him, but it was actually a duck.
    I made my way back toward the city and figured I’d stop off at REI to pick up an energy bar ’cause naturally I didn’t bring any. I forgot that people are getting their REI dividends so I ended up standing in line for 15min or so.
    From REI I made my way through city traffic over to Dearborn and then back to the I-90 bridge where I was met with a headwind coming out of the east. At this point I was getting tired so my speed dropped like a rock.
    I made it back to Sunset Elem. with no incidents, but my legs were getting tired. I rode near Lake Sammamish and noticed another duck sitting peacefully in a puddle.
    I paused by Microsoft off of Eastlake Samm. Pkwy to eat my second energy bar. I then got on the last hill going up 43rd way but 1/8 up I had to stop due to cramps. I then made it 1/2 way and had to stop again for cramps. I started up again but shortly had to stop yet again. I made one more stop for cramps and finally crested the hill. I rolled in a little after 3pm – mission accomplished. Shoe covers, shoes, and gloves thoroughly soaked. Hands wet from sweat but not cold. Feet a little cold but dry. Total distance, about 45miles.
    This was definitely a ride for the ducks!

  3. Tailwind

    Nice write-up – you sure do have a lot of thoughts going through your head! I like riding in the rain – brings you back to your childhood when you were not allowed to ride in the rain – and now you can whenever you want.

    Fenders – much as things still do get mucky, they do help immensely and certainly make the ride much, much more enjoyable, besides it’s kind of neat to see all the water streaming off your front fender or to see if you can go fast enough to get the water from the top of your tire to spray up and over the fender.

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